Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Is Social Media a Two-Way Street?

by Kim Van Sickler

To use social media or not use social media? If you're an author using it as a way to promote your books that may be a loaded question.

I spent last weekend at the Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference. I met the new authors on the Debut Authors' panel who seemed to thrive on self-promotion. They were excited about their books and wanted to share them with us.

Here was a talented bunch of people who decided to band together for speaking engagements as representatives from the Class of 2K13. For this conference we had: Kelly Barson, Geoffrey Girard, Mindy McGinnis, Demitria Lunetta, Kate Karyus Quinn, and Jennifer McGowan. Most of them came armed with swag, and Mindy McGinnis even distributed bottles of water promoting her book Not a Drop to Drink.
Mindy McGinnis wants to be found.

They obviously loved each other's company, and energized the room in the panels they led. They all seemed genuinely interested in the questions they were asked, and didn't shy away from talking to conference attendees. They all are easy to find online. Mindy even dared us to find some sort of social media that she ISN'T on.

On the other hand, Judith Irvin Kuns, a presenter for a session entitled "By You, Through You, To You, Discovering Your Essence as a Writer," seems pretty reclusive. She doesn't have a FB page, Twitter account, web page, or blog. She is listed on a few third party sites like Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher's Weekly, Google Books and Jacketflap, but without much activity. She had her book with her, and in the conference bookstore, but didn't actively promote it. Yet she was there at the conference, providing lots of good information for us. And she's a very likeable personality. Even so, I'm not able to interact with her online. I also can't follow her progress as an author as easily as I can the debut book writing crowd or any author that embraces the Internet.
Judith Irvin Kuns' book.
So here's where I'm going with this. If you eschew the traditional social media route, like Judith Irvin Kuns, do you end up losing fans because they lose track of you? Honestly, I may forget about her in a couple of years, because she's not in my face the way so many other authors are.

But then, what about the author who uses social media but doesn't respond to FB friend requests or follow the fan back on Twitter? The author promotes herself, but doesn't engage in meaningful dialogue with her audience. Is it realistic to expect authors to interact with their fan base? Or is the fact that the author is easily findable enough?

Readers: how important is it to connect with an author outside of his/her book? Authors: how important is it to engage with your readers?




27 comments:

  1. Great post, Kim. Because I write, I do like to follow published authors and do on their blogs/Twitter/Facebook even when they don't follow back. But as I get busier, theirs are the blogs I stop at least frequently when I get too busy. Because interacting with other blogger friends who want to interact back is most important to me.

    I know authors only have so much time, but I do think it's important that they reach back out to us. Because much of what gets posted on Twitter and Facebook, I don't even see because I'm too busy to follow everyone's posts all the time. I'm much more likely to know what you're doing if you interact with me. And I do agree with you that authors that don't do that or aren't on social media could get forgotten.

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    1. Excellent points, Natalie! Thanks for weighing in.

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  2. Excellent post Kim. For children's book writers, allowing readers to connect with writers is as important writers connecting with readers. I've a nephew (11 now, younger at the time) who contacted one of his favorite authors wanting to know when the writer's next book was coming out. And my nephew was thrilled beyond reason to receive a prompt and responsive reply. So, in addition to being a good human being and making a kid happy, the author in question assured that one copy of his/her book was already sold.

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  3. I enjoy learning a little about the authors of the books I read, but mainly, what matters to me is the writing. And when their next book will be out! LOL

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    1. You're right that nothing else matters if the writing doesn't suck us in.

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  4. That is a conference I would love to have attended!

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    1. Patty, our region puts on a stellar conference every September and it's very cost-effective. You get a lot of bang for your buck. Certainly something to consider for next year. You can combine it with a sightseeing jaunt of Cleveland. Take in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Nature and Science Center, a play over at Playhouse Square, and a trip to the National History Museum. See, I've got your itinerary planned out for you already.

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  5. You lose fans. Social media is THE way to get your story out for OTHERS to read and experienced and discussed and not discussed and used to prop up their laptop or displayed for all to see on their bookshelf in the front not behind the vase their now 20-year-old daughter made them in the 5th grade. I ramble without use of proper punctuation or even sentence structure because I know it will drive you nuts! LOL But, seriously, social media is absolutely necessary. Writers have a message, a piece of themselves, to share with the world. Why keep it to ourselves?
    BTW...Michael Hyatt's book Platform is an excellent resource if you are interested in building your platform.

    Krista xox

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  6. I don't chat with a lot of the authors I read unless I already know then through blogging. While I do think dialogue is important people must remember that authors have their own lives ass well. This conference sounds great by the way.

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  7. It definitely is a balancing act. I so admire the ones who can do it all. I wonder, though, if they're the ones who don't need much sleep to function.

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  8. This is a very interesting and topical subject, Kim. My fav group on FB doesn't allow any self-promotion, and that's why the members love it. We connect and enjoy each other without any of that hard sell, in-your-face, buy-my-book crap. I frequent writers' blogs who entertain, educate or make me think. I don't go back if they're self-promoting all the time. I also stop visiting blogs if the owner can't be bothered to visit mine ever.

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    1. I hear you about constant self-promotion. It doesn't take long to tune out. I think you're doing a great job of promoting your new book, yet still engaging in conversations with other writers.

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  9. Speaking strictly as a reader (since my WIP isn't even done yet), I get tired of authors who only self-promote. What keeps me coming back to their blog is interesting content. Ideally, I would like it best if they mixed up all of the writing information (meaning blogs about writing) with some personal touches. I like to read a blog about anything interesting. Same goes for other social media.

    With regard to Facebook... if someone just has an author page (which you can only "like") then I don't expect interaction. If they have a personal page and you become "friends," then I would expect someone to respond to an email. Just as I respond to emails from my "friends."

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    1. I read a blog post awhile back and it resonated with me. "Two Writers Who Are Killing It on Twitter." It's about Maureen Johnson and A.S. King. Turns out they tweet about interesting things, don't promote their books, and interact with their fans. http://bookriot.com/2013/06/05/two-writers-who-are-killing-it-on-twitter/ The post's author started buying their books because of their Twitter personalities.

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  10. How much or how little..I think it's more whether the person is being genuine or not.:) When people are being open and friendly, that's what we remember. :)

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    1. Re: socially awkward authors or those who can't stand the promotional aspect of writing. Do they try to find the way to promote themselves they hate least and work on getting passably good at it or do they not bother? Are they losing sales more one way than another?

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  11. A book absolutely needs to be promoted in every way possible, but with social media, we also must ask if we are reaching our potential readers this way or just other members of social media. So promote on social media, do school & library visits & interviews for print media as well as online ones.

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    1. "Reaching potential readers" is the key phrase, isn't it?

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  12. Like it or not, social media is a part of our lives. But...I still refuse to Tweet! FB is enough for me. Maybe we need to pick our poison??

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    1. I think you have to be a very special sort of person to do it all successfully. You have to love it and you have to have lots of time.

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    2. That's the way I felt about Twitter until I got on it. Now it's so easy just to tweet the links to my posts or whatever and takes a matter of seconds. And some of my post just automatically tweet. With all the retweeting by others, I don't ever actually have to go on Twitter and I rarely do. It brings me attention with little effort.

      Lee
      Tossing It Out

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  13. Some degree of social media interaction is essential in our era. Especially as more publishing turns to e-books and there are less bookstores providing meet-up opportunities. One has to be careful not to let the online presence totally consume them but an ongoing presence is a major part of the marketing machine.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  14. I think you need to be on social media, but that your aim should be to connect with others, celebrate their successes with them, and be a nice person. I'm not interested in "just ads," and I'm amazed that some people think merely touting their book would work. But I'll eagerly read the books of people I know online.

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  15. Some great points, Arlee and Marcia. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

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  16. Excellent post, Kim! I think social media is fantastic for networking and book promotion, but you have to contribute to the community as well. Constantly spamming people about your book will do more harm than good.

    I look forward to following this blog and reading more insightful posts from you!

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